WASHINGTON, May 5, 2017 — Move over Lois Lerner. President Obama’s national security advisor, Susan Rice, is acting like she may plead the Fifth if and when she is dragged before Congress to testify about the previous administration’s targeting of GOP presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and his campaign/transition team for surveillance.
When foreign targets of surveillance interact with U.S. citizens, U.S intelligence services are required under law to “mask” the names of those citizens to protect their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.
According to news reports, persons within the Obama administration ordered the “unmasking” of Trump and his campaign aides, then changed the rules concerning the dissemination of that information among the federal government’s omnipresent alphabet-soup agencies. Those that on occasion target us for reprisals.
When IRS official Lois Lerner targeted Tea Party and conservative groups for government harassment ahead of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, she was subpoenaed to appear before Congress to explain her actions, those of her agency and whether President Obama was behind it all.
Lerner pled the Fifth.
Obama’s Justice Department later found, as it later did with Hillary Clinton’s illegal handling of government secrets, that Lerner did no wrong.
When Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of a Senate judiciary subcommittee, invited Susan Rice to testify about her roll in the unmasking controversy, he received a letter from Rice’s attorney Kathryn H. Ruemmler:
“While Ambassador Rice commends the Subcommittee’s efforts to examine this matter of extraordinary national significance, it is extremely rare for the Congress to request the testimony of a former senior advisor to the President given the longstanding and well-recognized separation of powers concerns at issue.”
On the House side, a more assertive Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News, “There are things called subpoenas. You shouldn’t have to use it with a former national security adviser but if you do, you do.”
In answer to Rice’s attorney, Gowdy said, “Members of Congress don’t pick the witnesses. Lawyers don’t pick witnesses. The facts pick the witnesses. And whether Ambassador Rice likes it or not, she’s a really important fact witness.”
If Republicans, who have of late governed like Keystone Cops, can manage to get their act together and subpoena Rice, they have no excuses. After all, there is no one at Justice to run interference as was the case for Lois Lerner and, of course, Hillary Clinton.
If subpoenaed, don’t be surprised if Ambassador Rice, like Lerner, invokes her constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Contrary to the claim made by Rice’s lawyer, the issue under consideration has nothing at all to do with the Constitution’s “separation of powers” doctrine. The issue concerns the extent to which a Democratic administration used the extra-constitutional powers granted the federal government by foolish Republicans under George W. Bush.
The Patriot Act has eroded our constitutional right to be “secure” in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects.”
And under his PRISIM program, President Obama expanded the power of U.S. intelligence agencies to turn their attention from foreign threats to every so-called free American; especially GOP opponents. Especially Donald Trump and his aides.
The provisions in the Bill of Rights were designed to preserve individual liberty against the power of the government and the political majority. That’s because these rights are inviolable, nontransferable, non-negotiable, “unalienable.”
Today, the Constitution that shielded Lois Lerner against self-incrimination, and will likely do the same for Susan Rice, is becoming less and less applicable to average citizens and more and more a shield of the privileged and powerful.
Especially if you happen to be Lois Lerner, Hillary Clinton or, possibly, Susan Rice.